Bureau of Audit
Follow-up Audit on Shelter Conditions and Adoption Efforts of Animal Care and Control of New York City
SEPTEMBER 29, 2011
AUDIT REPORT IN BRIEF
Download the Complete Report (pdf 735KB)
Animal Care and Control (AC&C) of New York City is a not-for-profit organization responsible for operating New York City's municipal animal shelter system, including rescuing, caring for, and finding homes for homeless and abandoned animals in New York City. AC&C has facilities operating in all five boroughs. The agency’s mission is “. . . to promote and protect the health, safety and welfare of pets and people in New York City.”
AC&C is the sole organization contracted with the City that is responsible for the care of the City’s entire homeless and unwanted animal population. The organization has been under contract with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) since January 1995 and renewed its current contract in July 2010. The contract requires that AC&C provide humane sheltering as well as adoption efforts to reduce the number of homeless animals.
This follow-up audit determined whether AC&C implemented the 13 recommendations made in the previous audit, Audit Report on Shelter Conditions and Adoption Efforts of Animal Care and Control of New York City, (MH06-082A) issued on June 19, 2006.
The previous audit evaluated the conditions under which animals are sheltered by AC&C and the level of success of its efforts to promote the adoption of animals from its shelters. The audit found that shelter conditions were adequate and that staff was generally responsive to the needs of both the animals and the public, but that cleaning measures could be improved. This included spot cleaning of cages, more timely cleaning of adoption wards, and properly drying floors. The organization’s level of adoption efforts were found to be adequate in the three adoption centers, though customers and pet rescue groups surveyed as part of the audit identified concerns about the health of the animals and the audit noted that original adoption agreements were missing. The need for additional improvements in shelter security, investigation of missing animals, dog walking, and separation of sick from healthy animals was also identified.
Audit Findings and Conclusions
The current follow-up audit found that of the 13 recommendations made in the previous audit, AC&C has implemented seven, partially implemented four, not implemented one, and one is no longer applicable. Specifically, we found that AC&C has strengthened its dog-walking capacity through the development of a volunteer program and hiring of a staff person dedicated solely to volunteer recruitment and management. Actual dog-walking outcomes, however, are still limited, with various deficiencies identified regarding documentation and verification of the decision-making process of dogs to be walked.
Shelter security has improved with the purchase of a security system. Also, there has been consistent effort by staff with assisting customers in handling animals. AC&C has also ensured that staff wears appropriate protective gear when handling animals. However, animal security has not sufficiently improved. We found that weaknesses remain in the investigation of missing animals; the agency’s computer system lacks reliable reports regarding missing animals; and the agency has weak controls over determining the actual location of an animal.
Administratively, the agency has improved its adoption documentation process. It has taken additional steps to improve this process and cut costs, including purchasing a scanner as well as an electronic signature function, which has eliminated the need to store paper hard copies in the future. In the meantime, the agency has a contract with City Storage to maintain original adoption papers. AC&C has also instituted a cleaning procedure based on staff use of a Spot Check Log, which was developed as a result of the previous audit.
Underfunding continues to plague the agency and has resulted in a shortage of medical staff, leaving the agency vulnerable to not meeting the medical needs of the animals it houses. Additionally, our observations demonstrate that AC&C needs to improve its separation of sick and healthy dogs. The agency does have a system in place through the use of Chameleon (AC&C’s in-house reporting and tracking system) regarding animals that missed their initial medical exam (an exam required within the first 24 hours of admission to the shelter) through a daily email alert system. This email alert highlights animals in need of medical review. The agency has responded promptly by providing animals identified in these alerts with medical care.
Additionally, the agency has partnered with Pets for Life in order to provide a formal customer quality assurance program that randomly selects customers to call for a customer feedback survey. ‘Pets for Life’ provides AC&C with monthly reports of problems identified and possible recommendations to address concerns that are raised.
We found that there are limitations to reports produced by Chameleon. The agency does not have adequate internal controls in place to identify where an animal is throughout the course of the day.
To improve upon existing procedures, we make 10 recommendations including that:
- AC&C should ensure that sick animals are separated from healthy animals.
- AC&C should focus its limited resources on animals that have been confined for longer periods of time.
- AC&C should develop a written dog-walking policy that outlines the criteria used to determine which dogs to prioritize for walking, including a system to verify that high-needs dogs be walked first by staff and volunteers.
- AC&C should modify its Missing Animal Tracking policy to provide clearer guidelines about what information should be contained in its missing animal memos and verification that all steps of the investigation procedures were followed.
- AC&C should revise its Missing Animal Tracking policy to include procedures outlining the investigation of missing foster care animal cases.
Agency Response: There were two responses to the engagement. DOHMH stated, “We are pleased that the audit report provides a favorable account of shelter conditions, its robust volunteer program, and improved adoption efforts. We will continue to review the performance of AC&C to assure that the auditors' recommendations are implemented.”
In their response, AC&C officials generally agreed with nine of the 10 recommendations and described the actions to be taken to address them. They by and large agreed with the assessment of the current status of recommendations except for the finding that AC&C still does not have adequate licensed medical staff to address the medical needs of animals in the shelters.
Further, AC&C disagreed regarding the lack of adequate controls to track animals during the day, but agreed that the reporting capabilities of the Chameleon system could be improved. Finally, AC&C disagreed with the auditors’ assessment that they had been uncooperative.
Auditor Comment: According to the City Charter, the Comptroller’s Office has the authority to gain access to an Agency’s records and is required by law to keep them confidential. Despite being informed of this repeatedly, AC&C would not provide requested information until legal counsel from both agencies became involved.